Where were you when your favorite album came out? What were you doing? When did you get that album that you remember? I remember all of the albums that moved me: when I got them, what I was doing, what I was going through. I don’t think anyone can describe what it is about music that grabs us, lifts us up, puts us down, sends us spiraling, or stops us in our tracks, but I bet everyone has at least one album or song that sets the soundtrack to an event that forever changed them. Here’s mine:
July 27, 2010. I’m at F.Y.E. where I shop for new music religiously. I’m searching the metal stacks for the album Nightmare; the new one Avenged Sevenfold has just released. I’m excited to get my hands on it; after The Rev died, I wasn’t sure I was ever going to hear new material from this awesome band.
I see a ton of copies, unfortunately, they’re edited. I don’t buy edited CD’s… what’s the point? I drove forty-five minutes from my dumpy town to the nearest place with a music store. Dickson City can hardly be called a city when compared to Philly or Pittsburgh, but it’s big to me after living in Springville, population 500 or something. I’m crushed when the clerk tells me they won’t have their new shipment until later that week; that I should have come earlier. I leave, disappointed, but not without purchasing two or three other albums I want for my collection.
August 2, 2010. I’m on my way home from the first meeting of a writer’s critique group that my creative writing teacher has put together, and invited me to. He seems to think I have talent. I’m not so sure myself, but I’m hopeful.
“It was amazing,” I tell my husband, who makes the drive to and from Scranton with me, another small city on the scale, but bigger than I’m used to. “You could just feel the creative energy.”
I’m bouncing in my seat, thrilled to be recognized as an equal to other writers. Finally, I’m getting there, I tell myself.
He smiles, indulgently, at me. Chuck is not a man of many words, but he is a man of action. He changes the subject by opening the console of my truck, and pulling out an F.Y.E. bag. “I love you,” he says, his eyes gleaming in the dashboard lights. We’re on the back road that cuts out about 30 minutes from our trip, fast approaching the intersection where we’ll make our turn to get home.
I open the bag, but I already know what’s in there. I pull out my very own copy of Nightmare. We’re going around a corner. I start to squeal a thanks that dies in my throat when we hit a traffic jam on this country road.
Blue and red lights flash against the black of the sky, reflect off of the tree tops and the metal of cars. People are standing by the side of the road. Chuck pulls the truck off to the side of the road and calls home.
“Dad, is everyone home?” His voice is pleading, almost a prayer.
He hangs up, hands shaking. “It’s Donnie,” he says, opening the door. “He wrecked his bike. They don’t know anything else.”
I drop the damned CD as I jerk open my door and start to run toward the intersection. I see the yellow police tape starting to be strung up like early Christmas lights, and I know in my heart it can’t be good. Still, I hope. We hit a barrier of people, locals who know us, strangers, emergency workers, and police officers and shove our way through. As little as I am, I make it to the highway before Chuck. It’s deathly silent, even with a crowd.
The sight of the mangled ’83 Harley Sportster stops my heart for a breath. “Oh my God,” I mumble, even as I reach for Chuck. I can’t take my eyes off it. I see Joey, Donnie’s best friend, across the road. I scream for him.
He runs over. “Joey, what happened?” I ask, even as an emergency worker is approaching, telling us to get away from the scene.
“That’s my brother’s bike,” Chuck says, authoritative to an outsider, but I know he’s scared by the inflection of his voice. Just a slightly higher tone, and a tiny shake lets me know he’s terrified.
“Go get a trooper,” the emergency guy says. Then, I know. I look back at the bike, and I get shaky and sick. I look at Joey, begging with my eyes.
“Is he ok?” I stupidly ask. Donnie’s tough. He’s survived too many accidents to be hurt by this.
Before the trooper can make his way to us, two giant arms wrap around Chuck and I. It’s my uncle by marriage, Mark. “He’s gone guys. Donnie’s gone.” Chuck goes to his knees, while I stare in horror at a man I don’t really like. But Donnie loved him, I think, as he helps Chuck up, while Joey and I stand and look at each other helplessly.
Chuck reaches for me, and I go to him. We hold each other around the waist, and can only watch the black body bag roll by. I walk him to the truck and help him in. I’m driving now, back on home turf. I’m numb, and the only thing I can think about is how aptly Avenged Sevenfold titled their album, Nightmare.